Concussions & Tinnitus: What’s the Connection?

Woman with hands on her head suffering from concussion related tinnitus.

You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion nearby and their ears start ringing? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!

To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the bit that most action movies focus on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently discussed in the context of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also trigger this particular ringing in the ears.

After all, one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can occur for a wide variety of reasons (car crashes, sporting accidents, and falls, for example). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can lead to tinnitus. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a particular kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it this way: your brain is situated pretty tightly inside your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will start to move around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could wind up crashing into the inside of your skull because of the small amount of extra space in there.

This hurts your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And this is what results in a concussion. This illustration makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:

  • A slow or delayed response to questions
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurry vision or dizziness
  • Confusion and loss of memory
  • Headaches

This list is not complete, but you get the idea. A few weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from one concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But, repeated or multiple concussions are a different story (generally, it’s a good idea to avoid these).

How is tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?

The question of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can bring about tinnitus, It isn’t just concussions. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even mild brain injuries. That may occur in a few ways:

  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also trigger damage to the nerve that is responsible for transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a result of an accumulation of pressure within the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some instances, harm the portions of the brain that manage hearing. When this happens, the signals that get transmitted from your ear can’t be correctly processed, and tinnitus might happen as a result.
  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are often related to distance to an explosion. Irreversible hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the tremendously noisy shock wave of an explosion. So it’s not so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common underlying cause.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion takes place when the inner ear is injured due to your TBI. This damage can create inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is aided by three tiny bones in your ear. These bones can be pushed out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.

It’s significant to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Every patient will receive personalized care and instructions from us. Indeed, if you think you have experienced a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you need to call us for an evaluation right away.

When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be managed?

Most often, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be temporary. How long can tinnitus last after a concussion? Well, it could last weeks or possibly months. Then again, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be irreversible. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the best strategy.

Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, but instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a specific noise in your ear. Your specific tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will produce helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other external sounds.
  • Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you have hearing loss not triggered by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You accept that the noise is there, and then disregard it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.

Obtaining the desired result will, in some situations, require added therapies. Getting rid of the tinnitus will often call for treatment to the underlying concussion. Depending on the status of your concussion, there may be a number of possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

Discover what the best plan of treatment might be for you by giving us a call.

You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI

Your life can be traumatically affected by a concussion. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.

It could be days later or instantly after the crash that tinnitus symptoms emerge. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Contact us today to make an appointment.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.